Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Little Commercial Heraldry, Part 5

Not too far a walk from the offices of Burke & Best and their quasi-heraldic logo discussed in my last post, I found the Canterbury office of Jackson-Stops, a nationwide real estate broker.

Their logo, found twice here (once on the facade, and once on the sign above the door. They also use it extensively on their website) is that of a wolf's head holding an axe in its mouth.

It is more logo than heraldry, but it certainly has an heraldic "feel" to it. It would be perhaps a little better with a higher contrast between the wolf's head/axe (in red) and the field (in black). (See my post of March 21, 2019, for another example from Canterbury of a low-contrast coat of arms, and why it's not the best idea.)

Still, I suppose it would cost them an unconscionable amount of money to change it now, and it does tend to catch the eye as it is.

I just wish they hadn't gone for low contrast at the outset.

Monday, March 25, 2019

A Little Commercial Heraldry, Part 4

Still wandering about the streets of Canterbury, looking at heraldry and heraldry-like logos, I came across the offices of "Canterbury's top game studio", Burke & Best.

Their logo, on frosted glass panels on the front of their building at 81 Castle Street, demonstrate an interesting combination of both quasi-traditional (read, "staid") and non-traditional (read, "quirky") esthetics:

I know, I know! Sometimes I can be somewhat of a heraldry "purist", but I was really attracted to the quirky elements of this design, and especially those non-supporting "supporters". If a picture is "worth a thousand words", then this design is really saying a lot.

Spend some time looking carefully at it, and I think you will agree.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

There Is a Good Reason for Heraldry's "Rule of Contrast"

No, really!

I have seen it argued again and again over the years, why certain "low contrast" (color on color, or metal on metal) combinations ought to be permitted, instead of slavishly following the "rule of contrast" as outlined in so many basic heraldry books.

Well, there's a reason for the existence of this "rule", and it's founded on some good basic principles, mostly going back to the need for identifiability.

Some years ago, the State of Michigan, which normally issued new auto license plates every few years, had a short-lived experiment with plates on which the letters and numbers were white on a gold background. (What heralds would call "metal on metal".) There were so many complaints from law enforcement agencies all across the state that these license plates could not be read if they were a little bit dirty and then only in very good lighting conditions - neither of which regularly apply to Michigan roads, especially in the long winters - that the state issued new, high-contrast plates the very next year.

While exploring Canterbury, England, last fall, I came across another example, this one "color on color", of the issue with low contrast heraldry.

It was the Three Crows Tattoo parlor, which had these signs marking their place of business:

The above photos have been unretouched. You can see that it is very difficult to make out what it is that is on the shield. Frankly, you learn more about what's there from the wording on the signs than you do from the shield itself.

Now, here's the same signs with the contrast heightened and the overall picture lightened:

Those are better, but frankly, the shield would be much more effective if they had chosen high contrast between the shield and the birds; for example, a gold shield with the black crows, instead of a red shield.

C'mon, people! This "rule" of heraldry is there for a reason, and truly, the counter-examples cited by others over the years in discussions about this matter comprise a miniscule percentage of all of the coats of arms that there are. (Even the most generous estimates of such low contrast arms run between 1% to 3% of all coats.)

And, yes, I have read (indeed, I own a copy) of Archbishop Bruno Heim's book Or & Argent. But a significant number of his examples don't actually break the rule of contrast; they are examples of or and argent being placed next to each other on the shield, or such things as, for example, the arms of de Lagrenée, Gules a chevron or interlaced with another inverted ("reversed" in English blazon) argent, where the actual area of overlap between the low contrast charges is minimal.

So the next time you see someone who wants color on color, or metal on metal, on their arms, show them the first two pictures above, and tell them the story of the Michigan license plates, and remind them that identifiability should be one of the hallmarks of heraldry.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Military Heraldry Explained (Humor)

It's an article more than two years old, but which I just ran across today, thanks to a recent posting on Facebook by Mark A. Henderson.

It's an article on Duffle Blog entitled "Army Heraldry Meanings".

I especially enjoyed the comments about the insignia of the Transportation Corps, a unit of which my father served during the Korean War, and whose insignia is this:

And this is a hand-painted sign photographed on the grounds of Fort Eustis, Virginia, where he was stationed at the time:

Anyway, it's a fun article, and can be found on-line at Duffle Blog at

A Little Commercial Heraldry, Part 3

Wandering, as I was wont to do, about the streets of Canterbury, England, I ran across another piece of quasi-heraldry which incorporated the white horse of Kent in a company's logo:

It was a sign for R. Durtnell & Sons Limited, Building Contractors.

It's not quite heraldic; the primary charge (the horse) carrying the banner ("Est. 1591") is almost more like a supporter to a coat of arms than a charge on such a coat, and the "base" is "color on color", but still, all in all it has a fairly heraldic "feel" to it.

Plus the fact that they are using the white horse of Kent is a clue to where they are established.

I still find it fascinating, all the ways today that people find to use heraldry or heraldry-like designs.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Little Commercial Heraldry, Part 2

Another nice bit of commercial heraldry was found adorning the shop of Ernest Jones, "The Diamond & Watch Specialist" on Whitefriars Street in Canterbury.

Here's a closeup of the achievement of arms itself:

One of the things that threw me off a little was that in hunting about for more information on these arms, while the field on this shield is solid gold with a quarterly cross, other images of these arms (for example, in an image found on Wikipedia at,_Putney_Exchange_01.jpg) the arms are quarterly or and argent).

Assuming that the arms here are miscolored, then the blazon would be: Quarterly or and argent on a cross quarterly gules and azure a lion's head cabossed or langued gules on a chief per pale azure and gules a hanging balance or.

The unicorn supporters each have a quarterly shield hanging about their necks, and the demi-saint is holding a chalice with his left hand. The motto is Concordia Integritas Industria (Harmony, Integrity, Industry).

I feel certain the whole achievement is just chock full of meaning and symbolism. And counterchanging.

The design feels a tad "busy" to me, and yet it seems to come together pretty well. Still, it's not something that you could easily work into or as a commercial logo.

Still, I suspect that no one seeing this coat of arms is going to mistake for that of some other firm.

And it's not all that often that you seen an entire achievement of arms out on the street that aren't the Royal Arms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So this was a nice change of pace while wandering about the streets of Canterbury, England on a fine fall day!

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Little Commercial Heraldry, Part 1

One of the many uses of heraldry, and one which goes back literally for centuries, is the application of an heraldic element for use as a trade, or even inn, sign.

This ancient (well, to we folks in the United States, anyway*) usage can still be seen in modern use today.

For example, there was this little sign over a shop in old Canterbury:

It's not quite an heraldic crest; it's on a hill or mound instead of a torse or wreath, but still ....

It is, of course, a crabapple tree, and marks the shop of Crabtree & Evelyn on Burgate Street in Canterbury. So this sign has not only the advantage of being nearly heraldry, it is canting near-heraldry. (Canting heraldry is heraldry that is a pun on the name; examples include the bird bolts in the arms of Bolton, a bow in the arms of Boven, bird wings in the arms of Wingfield, and so on.)

Of course, as an Appleton, I found it especially attractive. So be it.

* It has been remarked that the difference between Europeans and Americans is that Europeans think that a hundred kilometers is a long way, and Americans think that a hundred years is a long time.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Faux Arms

Down one of the side streets off of High Street in central Canterbury, England, was a large sign across the front of a building that said "Historical Canterbury."

On each end of the sign was the image of a knight, front facing, holding in front of himself a sword, issuing from the center of a lindwurm, rather like a snake with a dragon's head, circled about not terribly unlike the strap and buckle of a Scottish clan badge, or the garter of the Order of the Garter.

But right in the middle of the sign, between the words "Historical" and "Canterbury" was this image:

It's not a real coat of arms, of course; it's one of those modern, somewhat florid, pseudo-heraldic designs that one sometimes finds adorning a tee shirt.

Still, it uses a fairly stock lion rampant (even though it is facing the "wrong" way, to sinister) on a 19th Century shield shape, surmounted by a non-standard coronet in front of a pair of polearms in saltire.

It's an interesting design, and I seem to find something new in it just about every time I look at it.

But it ain't heraldry, though it tries hard to give that impression. Something to draw the tourists in, I suppose, but which left me somewhat bemused, as it is neither "historical" nor related to "Canterbury."

Monday, March 4, 2019

A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Next door to the Café St. Pierre on Canterbury's Peter Street was a place called the Black Griffin.

I thought it was a nice use of an heraldic monster, but what I found most intriguing about it was the fact that the so-called black "griffin" was depicted, in fact, as a black dragon.

To review:

Griffin: Foreparts of an eagle's head, talons, wings, complete with feathers; hind parts the rear legs and tail of a lion, complete with fur.

Dragon: Scaly body all over, bat wings, pointed tail, squarish wolf-like head.

Yep. They need to rename the place the Black Dragon.